Best used for treating hyperpigmentation, these products — packed with glycolic acid — promote cellular turnover to remove the top layers of the skin revealing a brighter, fresh complexion, says New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "Glycolic acid is the smallest acid in size," she says. (This means it can get deep into the skin.) "It is very effective in breaking down skin cells and removing dead particles," says Engleman. "It boosts collagen production and elastin production with the removal of waste and dead skin cells." Bottom line: By removing these dead cells, healthy, glow-y skin is revealed.
You can find it in many drugstore products—just take a peek at the label. Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. likes the Benzac line. "It's active ingredients are salicylic acid and East Indian Sandalwood oil—salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that serves as a keratolytic agent (meaning it dissolves keratin). It unclogs pores by penetrating into the pore to dissolve dead skin cell accumulation and aids in shedding of the top layer of skin. East Indian sandalwood oil is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, which is new to the skin care scene. It soothes the skin and fights off inflammation that often accompanies breakouts."
Inflammation is the single greatest gauge of scar development. The greater the inflammation on the skin, the more likely scarring is to occur. Deep breakouts that take a long time to heal also increase the chance of scarring. Blackheads, whiteheads, and other non-inflamed blemishes typically don't cause scarring because these types of lesions don't injure skin tissue.
Acne scar treatments are best handled with special attention and care from your dermatologist since they require more intense procedures than over-the-counter options. The downside: Treatments tend to be expensive. If you aren't quite ready to put a dent in your savings, know that you aren't alone in your struggle with acne scars. Just by reframing your way of thinking, you may even learn to feel much more comfortable with them.
Not that you needed an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but if a pimple should threaten to ruin your evening out, reach for the Champagne. Its tartaric acid (found in grapes) is said to not only ease acne, but also to contain anti-aging properties. So, soak up a cotton pad with your champs, and apply it to the infected area (it won’t hurt to rub it on your whole face, either). High-class problems? We’ll drink to that!
However, if you have a scar, you’re dealing with permanent skin damage that needs treatment in order to disappear. An acne scar changes the texture of the skin. If acne has left indentations, or raised spots, the damage has occurred at a deeper level in the skin. This “cobblestoning” effect indicates scarring that needs more than a surface-level treatment.
You've probably seen those tiny glass jars filled with liquid and some solid sediment at the bottom—sometimes it's pink, sometimes it's white, and (in the case of my favorite product) sometimes it's flesh-tone. The solid in the jar is usually a mix of drying ingredient like camphor, sulfur, and zinc oxide, but many brands throw in a few little extras. Cult-favorite Mario Badescu Drying Lotion adds calming calamine and exfoliating salacylic acid to their formula, while my favorite, End-Zit Acne Control Drying Lotion, keeps it simple, but comes in several shades so that it conceals your breakout while it treats it.
If saving babysitting money for a year still won't make a dent in the funds you need to get a fancy laser treatment that will blast away acne scars, don't be discouraged. Thanks to the geniuses behind drugstore brands like La Roche-Posay, there's a new class of products that feature smart technology and better-than-ever ingredients to help treat dark marks and acne scars — at an affordable price. “La-Roche Posay’s Pigmentclar line is unique in the way it combines exfoliating lipohydroxy acid (LHA), phe-resorcinol, and ferulic acid, which are both strong brightening ingredients, all together to form a topical product that’s seriously effective," says dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara.
This formula gently and effectively treats visible acne overnight using a skin-recovery complex that blends salicylic acid, vitamin B3, azelaic acid, caffeine, and other complexion clearers. The formula helps fight redness and unclog pores while calming and soothing post-breakout skin. The result is a clarified, glowing complexion free of redness, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation.
Washing your face with regular soap is not enough to make acne better. The best face wash for acne is effective at removing oil and dirt, but still gentle enough to use regularly without overdrying your skin. Look for topical acne medication ingredients salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide in your face wash and use gentle, nonabrasive cleansing techniques.
It starts when greasy secretions from the skin's sebaceous glands (oil glands) plug the tiny openings for hair follicles (plugged pores). If the openings are large, the clogs take the form of blackheads: small, flat spots with dark centers. If the openings stay small, the clogs take the form of whiteheads: small, flesh-colored bumps. Both types of plugged pores can develop into swollen, tender inflammations or pimples or deeper lumps or nodules. Nodules associated with severe cases of acne (cystic acne) are firm swellings below the skin's surface that become inflamed, tender, and sometimes infected.
Sunscreen: "Sun exposure during an active breakout can lead to darkening of inflammatory lesions, prolonging their appearance on your skin and making them harder to fade over time," says Dr. Shereene Idriss from Union Square Dermatology, which means it's important to lather on the sunscreen daily — even when it's cloudy. And don't worry about breaking out from a pore-clogging sunscreen; the latest formulas are more innovative and acne-friendly than ever. Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a top derm-approved favorite. It contains niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.
Toning. After you wash and exfoliate you should apply a toner to the face that will help tighten the pores so oil and dirt cannot become trapped and create a home for harmful bacteria. Toners designed for acne sufferers are readily available at drugstores, but you can also apply products like apple cider vinegar or witch hazel. Apply toners with cotton balls and allow them to sit on the skin rather than rinsing them away.
Since lemon juice has a pH of 2 and skin's pH is 4.0-7.0, this method needs to be used carefully. If left on too long, or not diluted this can lead to significant chemical burns. Citrus juices also contains a chemical called Bergapten, which binds to DNA and allows UV radiation to damage skin more easily, so you need to watch your sun exposure if you have any citrus juice on your skin. Rinse it off before going into the sun, and wear sunscreen.
One study that gained a lot of traction in the acne vs. food debate appeared in the Archives of Dermatology in 2002. This research was based on the study of 115 people in Eastern Paraguay and 1,200 individuals in Papua New Guinea. The individuals in this study lived on a diet of self-raised lean meats and fresh plant foods, and scientists were astonished to record not a singular case of acne in either population. Based on this evidence, researchers concluded that the standard Western diet composed largely of starches and refined sugars might be a culprit between the high rates of acne in the Western world.
“After sweating, immediately use an exfoliating cleanser to help keep your pores clear and remove excess oil,” says Dr. Zein Obagi of ZO Skin Health. Try keeping Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads in your gym bag or locker for those times you need an on-the-go cleanse. These will remove any leftover dirt while treating your skin with acne-fighting salicylic acid.
Steroid injections: If you feel a stress pimple rearing its ugly head, a steroid shot can be administered the same day you call your derm because the process is very fast. Not only does it immediately reduce the inflammation of an existing zit, but cortisone can also help thick scars (keloids) appear softer and flatter. "These are specifically for raised scars, however," says Dr. Shah. "It'll help flatten out the scar, but it won't do anything to any discrepancies in the texture."
Bacteria. Excess sebum clogs the openings to hair follicles -- especially those on the face, neck, chest, and back. Bacteria grow in these clogged follicles. This makes blackheads or whiteheads, also known as ''comedones,'' form on the skin's surface. Sometimes, this clogging causes the follicle wall to break under the pressure of this buildup. When this happens, sebum leaks into nearby tissues and forms a pustule or a papule -- this is called inflammatory acne. Larger, tender pustules are called nodules.
Exfoliate dead skin cells that can clog pores and lead to breakouts with the power of salicyclic acid. Mario Badescu's Acne Facial Cleanser was specially formulated to effectly target acne-prone or acne-erupted skin. A soothing blend of botanical extracts including aloe, chamomile, and thyme help to improve the look and feel of troubled skin, while leaving skin thoroughly refreshed.
Isotretinoin has a high risk of inducing birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Women of childbearing age who take isotretinoin need two negative pregnancy tests (blood or urine) before starting the drug, monthly tests while they take it, and another after they are done. Those who are sexually active must use two forms of contraception, one of which is usually the oral contraceptive pill. Isotretinoin leaves the body completely when treatment is done; women must be sure to avoid pregnancy for one month after therapy is stopped. There is, however, no risk to childbearing after that time.